Wednesday, February 28, 2018

25 big blunders of self-publishing authors (& other authors)

1. Not assessing the marketplace before you write the book. Who are your potential readers? Who are your competitors? What are the prices of competing books? Will your book be better, more important, less expensive, have better distribution? Does anyone need your book? Will anyone want your book?

2. Not having professional editing and design

3. Not doing enough research before selecting a self-publishing company

4. Refusing to believe abundant negative comments about a self-publishing company

5. Not negotiating for a better deal -- you can probably get the "October Special" in January, or get more books and fewer bookmarks

6. Paying too much for a self-publishing package (If you pay $5,000 or $50,000 it will be nearly impossible to earn back your cost of publishing.)

7. Paying too little for a self-publishing package (If you pay under $400, you will probably get terrible books.)

8. Not budgeting money and time for promoting your book

9. (For self-pubbers) Allowing a big “discount” for bricks-and-mortar booksellers which probably won’t stock your book anyway, and giving up the additional profit you could get from online sales

10. Assuming that your publisher or printer will do a good job of promoting your books

11. Assuming that your book will be reviewed without trying to get it reviewed

12. Not having a website and blog (novelists and poets don't need blogs.)

13. Rushing.

14. Not reading the book often enough and closely enough to catch as many errors as possible.

15. Assuming that your work is finished when your book is finished

16. Assuming that your publishing company’s website will sell lots of books for you.

17. Pricing your book too high

18. Pricing your book too low

19. Producing your book in only one format: you should probably have one or two print formats, plus multiple ebook formats (unless you decide that an exclusive deal like KDP Select is best for you)

20. Waiting until the book is published to start marketing

21. Not having an understandable title

22. Not having a distinctive title

23. Not having a distinctive 'author name.'

24. Not having a subtitle that can help sell the book

25. Not having cover text that can be read in small "thumbnail" size online.

More help in my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice.   

Monday, February 26, 2018

And now I attack what's likely the world's worst book announcement

Analyzing an announcement for a book I NEVER will read -- even if the book was not absurdly overpriced and did not have a dreadful video.

In his latest book, self-publishing Outskirts Press author [a horrible adjectival phrase] , Charles Hall, perches readers [Hmm. I didn't know that "perch" could be a transitive verb.] on the pinnacles [Is that more fun than being on "tenterhooks?"] of suspense as the retired mercenary, Gylfalin, [Isn't he the guy who discovered the Hidden Kingdom of Haagen-Dazs?] and his cousin, Pendaran the Archer [Named after a mythical island in a role-playing game, or maybe it's an employee-training company], try to rescue captives and mount a defense against the Khan, an Eastern despot... [Played by Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- not to be confused with Kublai Khan, Agha Khan, Aly Khan, Alyy Khann, any of the Bollywood Khans or Herman Kahn.]

...intent on gaining control of all the magic objects in the world. [Ooh. What will David Copperfield and David Blaine do?]

A magical falcon, a magical owl and crystal orbs [I dated a girl with alabaster orbs.] -- each with the power to allow their owners to pierce the veils [I wonder if the author paid extra for this fine chunk of creativity. WAITAMINUTE! "Pierce the Veil" is the name of a band.] of space and time ["Two to beam up, Scotty."] -- are the long sought after treasures now pursued by the greedy Khan. These ancient magical devices have over time been scattered across the globe [Needs to be rewritten. "Across" doesn't work with spherical objects.], some in the hands of a primitive pastoral people, some in the possession of the community of Endylmyr [A rival of Haagen-Dasz], and some under the control of the Khan himself.

After several misguided attempts to retrieve and save the magic objects, Gylfalin and Pendaran discover through Angmere the Historian [The tutor of Ming the Merciless?]

Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the planet Mongo, from Flash Gordon
that the key to their success lies in the words of an ancient rhyme ["Salagadoola means mechicka booleroo. But the thingamabob that does the job is bippity-boppity-boo"] that leads them to the three witches of Endylmyr -- Gwynyr, Hellwydd and Hilst [Outrageous. This is another creative ripoff! Those are names of shelf brackets sold by Ikea.]

-- who magically harness the spectacular powers of a lightning storm [Good choice. It powered a DeLorean in Back to the Future.] to destroy the Khan’s armies.

The struggle of the two magic-empowered warriors to free the peoples of the woods, steppes and plains from the clutches of the Khan climaxes in intense single combat [One guy fighting himself?] between Gylfalin and the Khan’s eastern commander, Tzantzin [Isn't Tzantzin a breath mint, or a Russian dance?] providing a satisfying end to this adventuresome tale. [People can be adventuresome, but probably not tales.]

I find it extremely hard to believe that anyone would pay $27.95 for a paperback fantasy novel by an unknown author, when a real J. K. Rowling hardcover Potter is available for less than half the price.

Also, the ineffective promotional video has the MOST INAPPROPRIATE MUSICAL SOUNDTRACK possible. It apparently was produced by inept Outskirts Press -- of course.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Kristen Lamb likes to guide writers, but she needs some guidance

I'm an imperfect perfectionist but I think that people who want to be regarded as authorities on writing should write properly.

Below, from Kristen Lamb, who "has guided writers of all levels"

  • "this doesn’t jive with reality" [Kristen needs someone to guide her about the use of "jibe."]
  • "the brain of a monkey who’s head was crushed in Wal Mart’s automatic doors" [Kristen also needs guidance about "who's" v. "whose," and the store name is now "Walmart" with no space or hyphen.]
  • "Generations bought Wonderbread" [Actually, "Wonder" and "Bread" are two separate words.] 
  • "sold less than a thousand copies" [FEWER, dammit.] 
  • "A large percentage of writers have" [HAS, dammit. The verb has to agree with "percentage," not "writers.]
Despite her linguistic limitations, Kristen is perceptive and knowledgeable and provides good advice. Read what she says and try not to wince at the way she may say it.

Sometimes content is more important than form. However, authors should keep in mind that every word they write is an audition. Don't be sloppy in public.

Wonder Bread photo from Mark James Miller. Walmart photo from Thanks.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Music can make life -- especially work -- more pleasant.

I thought that "Whistle While You Work" came from the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South, but it was actually part of the 1937 animated Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The song shows Snow White and a bunch of cute animals happily whistling while cleaning house.

This song even generated an anti-Nazi parody:

Whistle while you work.
Hitler was a jerk.
Mussolini kicked him in the peenie.
Now it doesn't work.

Snow White is the source of another popular work song. "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go" is sung by the seven dwarfs.

When I was a kid, we sang this parody:

Hi-ho, hi-ho
It's off to school I go.
I heard the bell
And ran like hell.
Hi-ho, hi-ho.

In 1957, The Bridge on the River Kwai, showed Allied POWs whistling the "Colonel Bogey March" to maintain morale and dignity while building a bridge under horrid conditions for their Japanese captors. That song was written in 1914, but it, too, was the source of an anti-Nazi parody in the Second World War.

Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's [are] so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels has no balls at all

Slaves may have sung since ancient times to mitigate their misery. In the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, Lyle (played by Burton Gilliam) taunted the mostly black railroad workers: "When you was slaves, you sang like birds. Come on! Let's hear a good, old nigger work song!"

Around 1980, I was writing about 20 hours a day to complete a book with a very tight deadline. I discovered an NPR radio show hosted by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes. Ed played great jazz after midnight, and the music kept me awake enough to keep writing.

Although I enjoy many kinds of music, and my home is filled with radios and recordings and the equipment to play them (including two new Amazon Echos), I somehow got out of the habit of playing music while I write.

I recently rearranged my home office, and rediscovered the great Tivoli radio that has been on my desk for nearly a decade. While I'm in the car, I love talk radio, but when I'm writing I find that voiceless music is less distracting, very comforting, and sometimes even stimulating.

So, turn on some music -- or whistle while you work. It was good for Snow White.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Free "cloud storage" is very valuable to authors and others

If you've used a computer for more than a few months, you've probably suffered from the horror of a lost data file. A file could be something as unimportant as a list of a few phone numbers or as vital as a list of passwords, irreplaceable photographs or the manuscript of a work-in-progress ("WIP").
You know, of course, that files should be backed-up regularly. However, if you back-up a file onto the same computer as the one where the file was created, a hard drive failure can wipe out both the original and the backup copy. Solid-state storage is more reliable than hard drives--but still not perfect. Nothing is 100% reliable. Neither are people.

Over the years various devices and services have been used for backing up. My personal choices have included floppy disks, tape drives, portable hard drives, duplicate internal hard drives, thumb drives, memory cards, iPods, CDs, DVDs and probably others I've forgotten.

In recent years companies including Microsoft, Carbonite and Dropbox and have sold off-premises "cloud" storage. Prices range from under ten bucks per month to hundreds of bucks, depending on the storage capacity and optional features.

Cloud storage offers important advantages beyond mere safe storage at a reasonable price:
  • There is nothing for you to misplace (except perhaps the password).
  • You are not responsible for maintenance and repairs.
  • The cloud should be immune to fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, bugs, burglars and terrorists.
  • You can store a file at one computer and retrieve it at another one (as with a network).
  • You can allow multiple people at multiple locations to retrieve stored files ("shared access" or collaboration).
  • You can have automatic backups at time intervals you select.
OK, now that I've convinced you to use cloud storage, I'm going to tell you how to get it for free. In fact, you probably already have free cloud storage but are not using it.

When you send an email, a copy of the message remains on the server of the email provider for many months, or maybe many years, or maybe forever. If you use Google's Gmail or another free email service, the storage is FREE.

Since early January I've been working on a book about Donald Trump. I work on it from two PCs in my home: one in my basement office and one in my second-floor office. Even though the PCs are on a network, I periodically email the current version of the manuscript to myself. I can easily resume work on it anywhere I have internet access, and the latest version and earlier versions are at least 99% safe.
Whenever I access Gmail, Google tells me how much space I've used and how much is left. I've currently used 2.82 GB (18%) of 15 GB allocated to me. If I am prolific enough to approach the limit I can delete ancient emails and book files, or buy more space. One hundred gigs will cost $19.99 per year and a terabyte costs $99.99 per year. Even if not free, the price is right.

Cartoon at top from

Monday, February 12, 2018

How you can be in Wikipedia

"Internet fame" can be measured in several ways. Kids compete to be the first to accumulate 1,000 friends on Facebook. Adults may count their Google links. I have over 40,000. One of our mutual friends has just over 1,300.)

But none of these statistics is as impressive as having a biography on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the Internet’s mammoth and free encyclopedia, a valuable reference source — and an addictive time-waster — for millions of people worldwide. Almost anyone can gain Google and Bing search links, but most people are not deemed worthy of an article on Wikipedia. Two of my high school classmates have made it, but so far, I'm just included in an article about publishing — not my own article.

Wikipedia says: “The topic of an article should be notable, or ‘worthy of notice;’ that is, ‘significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded.’ Notable in the sense of being ‘famous,’ or ‘popular’ — although not irrelevant — is secondary. This notability guideline for biographies reflects consensus reached through discussions and reinforced by established practice, and informs decisions on whether an article on a person should be written, merged, deleted or further developed.”

While you can publish an article about yourself, or have someone write about you, you must be noteworthy and the article must be neutral and verifiable. An inappropriate article will usually be deleted quickly. If you want to be enshrined in Wikipedia, do something important that others will notice, like D. H. Lawrence, above.

Of course, being on Wikipedia doesn't mean you're wonderful. Atilla the Hun, Torquemada, Stalin and Hitler made the cut. Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle were approved, too. So was the cockroach.

Monday, February 5, 2018

My new book about Donald Trump now has 35,053 words. I'm past the half-way point as my target "pub date" of March First approaches.

I am simultaneously researching, writing and editing.

The toughest part is deciding which chunks are not really necessary, in order to provide a proper balance both within and among chapters.

I have a tendency, inherited from my father, to say too much--and I sometimes must tell myself to STFU.

Pop liked to teach, and to win arguments. But he insisted on providing 'evidence' long after he won an argument, and hated it when someone figured out the point of a lesson and tuned out before he delivered the final word.

One of my perpetual problems is giving too many examples. It's partly pedantry, which I inherited from my father. It may also be a bit of egomania, to show off how much I know.

My natural impulse is to write something like, "British automobile manufacturers--such as Jaguar, Rover, MG, Triumph,

Vauxhall, Austin and Morris--had reputations for unreliable electrical systems."

Under my self-imposed limit, I am allowed ONLY THREE EXAMPLES," so I'd probably ditch Triumph, Vauxhall, Austin and Morris. I'd still make my point, and save some bytes and trees.

When speaking, too many words can lead to annoyance and boredom. In publishing, too many words can increase the price of a book. Every word should be the right word, and there should not be too many words.

How many words are too many? I'm not sure, but books can suffer from either being too short or too long.

Is this post too long? Probably.